Still being fresh out of the classroom, I’ll never forget Hall Davidson explaining to me that I would be able to take 50 educators anywhere for a week of professional development, networking, and fun. I thought, to myself, “If I could spend a week with my friends, where would I want to go….. SEA WORLD, San Diego” It took a bit of convincing as SeaWorld had never hosted educators in their residential camp, but as soon as I explained that teachers were just grown up size students they said okay.
Next challenge to tackle, how would I take strangers and connect them in ways that allowed them to break down their barriers, bond in new ways, and realize that professional development could be fun. I went to my local teacher supply / party store and walked the aisles for inspiration. There it sat… 3rd shelf up… the foam finger. I’d divide them up in small groups, compete in games, and each night the winning team would receive “THE FINGER”
I should have known, but never quite imagined, how fiercely competitive they’d each become, all for the honor of receiving the finger from their colleagues. We used this as a spring board to encourage our presenters and colleagues throughout the week as they shared best practice, by whipping our own fingers out, pointing them to the sky, giving them a whirl and a WOOT WOOT whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Since then DEN STARs have been giving fingers here, there, and everywhere! (Even dressing up as the finger at our Tech-or-Treat conferences) It’s often one of the first things we need to explain at events, so that newbies aren’t offended when someone shouts out “Let’s give them THE FINGER” Really, it’s the highest honor one can receive from our community… the acknowledgment of the amazing work each of you are doing.
At the end of our week at SeaWorld, DEN STAR Linda Foote’s husband came up to me and asked “What happened here?!?” as he watched 50 educators saying goodbye with tears in their eyes. My only explanation… They came strangers … They left family!
That’s what I love most about our community! The DENthusiasm each of you take in welcoming and supporting new members. The ways in which you inspire not only your students, but every educator that crosses your path.
I am often asked to describe what happens at DEN events and I do my best to talk about the DENtastic activities, but I always end with the DEN is not best described… it’s best experienced.
So, to each and every one of you who have helped transform this network of strangers sharing a similar passion to a community of family members with different talents and strengths who help guide and light the way for students and educators across the nation, THANK YOU, a GIANT WOOT WOOT and FINGER to all of you!
Now it’s your turn… I have a finger I’d like to give to you…. share a story about how someone from our community inspired you, brought you into the family, or helps guide you along the way. We’ll send one of you our famous DEN FINGER!